Teaching Children to Love the Sea

How do you teach someone to love the ocean? 

We know that to love something means to embrace, cherish and protect it.  One of the keys to developing a sense of love and understanding is a sound educational program.  To instill  sense of caring for our seas is critical to the health of our blue planet’s waters.

In the small Baja California Sur city of Loreto, a community-based environmental group, Eco-Alianza, continues to spearhead educational programs for the local youth.   They are committed to introducing the sea in all her aspects – above and below the surface – and the problems facing her – with hands on programs. Theses programs serve multiple purposes:

  • To awaken a deeper understanding and love of the sea that supports their community and lifestyles.
  • To introduce more effective ways to care for the resource, such as proper trash handling and problems associated with plastic
  • To clarify problems associated with overfishing and capture of protected species, such as turtles.

“Cursos Naturales” is one of Eco-Alizana’s programs.  Organized and taught by course director, Edna Peralta, the curriculum familiarizes children 8-12 years old with the treasures of the sea.  The study program is funded in part by local fundraising efforts and by The Ocean Foundation, a Washington, D.C. based philanthropic organization dedicated to reversing the trend of destruction of ocean environments.

During the course of study, the students were introduced to sea kayaking, experienced whales and dolphins, and spent time simply playing on the beach.  These activities were mixed with selected readings, learning games and lectures.  Toward the end of the classes, EcoAlianza paired with Loreto Art School.   Easels were set up, paints provided, and each student was asked to paint a picture of what they had learned and loved.

At the end of their course, a celebration was held in the newly dedicated Community Center for the Environment – CenCoMA of Eco-Alianza.   Family members, friends and community members attended the event which included sharing and song.  Each student stood in turn and gave a short explanation of what was represented in their painting.  Ms. Peralta asked pointed questions, such as, “Why do you love the whales?”  “What threats face them?”  and “What can you do to help protect them?”  Without falter, each student provided answers that reflected an absorbed knowledge base that was now integral to their belief system. “What makes me the happiest,” Ms. Peralta shared with her students, “is when you go home and teach your family and friends what you have learned here.”

What they have learned they now share with their peers, their extended family, and their community – an extension of their education.  Their voices become a guiding force for tomorrow.  These young new stewards carry the future health of our oceans through their knowledge, their actions, and their commitment to protect the seas.

Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C. is a grassroots nonprofit organization committed to protecting the coastal, marine and terrestrial eco-systems of the Loreto region, engaging different sectors of Loreto society, carrying out education and outreach campaigns, promoting and conducting research and actively engaging the region’s decision makers.

Beautiful Dreamer

Beautiful Dreamer

Sultry morning. Long slow paddle in mirror-like seas.

Undulating jellyfish lazily propel themselves along the surface of still water. “Common” Jellyfish (Aurelia aurita), these are the most familiar of the species. Four gonad rings – usually purplish/pink – are visible through the translucent body. In the blue-green sea this morning, they appear more golden in color. Short numerous tentacles hang from the margin of the bell. The large quantity makes me reconsider an early swim. While the sting from these is considered mild, a sting is a sting is a sting ….

Besides the undulating jellyfish, artic terns, blue-footed boobies, Elegant frigate birds, and long-necked cormorants populate the morning count. I find myself in such awe of my surroundings that I cannot lift my camera. Rather, when a group of pelicans approaches, their wingtips mere inches from the surface of the sea, I simply hold my breath, listening to squished sound of the air between the water and their bodies.

Farther up the coast, three sea turtles lift their heads in curiosity. My board and paddle are stealth-like compared to the noisy engines of the pangas. The largest of the three lingers on the surface watching me, and I paddle toward him. I find that turtles are relatively shy, and this one is no different. As I approach, he lowers his head and dives beneath the surface. I see his broad green body as he glides underneath the shadow cast by my board. His tips his head once, and our turtle-human eye contact is complete.

I paddle farther, thinking of the turtle and the conservation efforts across the globe by groups like Grupo Torugero, or in Loreto, Eco Alianza, whose missions are to protect the natural world and those species that have become endangered or nearly extinct. Funny, this role of mankind on the planet. We seem to constantly push ourselves – and this planet that we love – to the brink – one way or another, before we can become conscious enough of our actions to change and alter our course.